University President Drew G. Faust decried the “acrimonious words” and “escalating numbers of cruel and frightening incidents” reverberating around the country in the wake of Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential election.
In an email to Harvard students, faculty, and staff Tuesday afternoon, Faust called for resistance to “hatred, intimidation, and intolerance in every form.” She wrote that violence and division “put the very idea and purpose of universities at risk” and “threaten our profoundest national and human values.”
“Although there is much about which we may differ and disagree,” Faust wrote, “we must affirm the values of inclusion and belonging, and exemplify the respect for individuals and ideas that is the essence of an academic community.”
Since Election Day on Nov. 8, racially charged incidents have occurred in schools and universities nationwide.
While there have been no such incidents on Harvard’s campus, many students have demonstrated in the aftermath of the election. Law School students held a rally dubbed “Harvard Against Hate” last Thursday, and hundreds gathered in Harvard Yard Monday to urge the University to protect its undocumented students.
Reflecting on the election in the email, Faust termed it the most “divisive and contentious” campaign in living memory. Among other divisive proposals, Trump called for mass deportations and the construction of a wall along the border between the United States and Mexico. In the past, Faust has lobbied elected officials in favor of more protections for undocumented university students.
Tuesday’s email marks the second time Faust has recently and publicly discussed the national political state of affairs. In her Convocation address to freshmen at the beginning of the semester, Faust warned against “the vile discourse of ethnic, religious, and racial hatred that has spread with such active virulence” across the nation.
Faust—an acclaimed scholar of American history who has said she views the world with an academic’s eye—narrowed her advice to a personal level. She insisted this historical moment demands action from every individual on Harvard’s campus.
“I have necessarily regarded this moment not just through the eyes of a university president, but also those of a historian—as a scholar keenly aware of how history turns on contingency, of how much what each one of us says and does matters,” she wrote. “We cannot shrink from—or escape—our responsibilities to both the present and the future.”
—Staff writer Hannah Natanson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @hannah_natanson.
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